The UK’s largest gambling operators have pledged to halt all TV and radio advertising while the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown persists.
On Monday, the UK’s Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) announced that its members – who include Bet365, Flutter Entertainment, GVC Holdings, The Stars Group’s Sky Bet brand and William Hill – would “voluntarily remove all TV and radio gaming advertising during the COVID-19 lockdown.”
BGC members have pledged to implement this new policy ASAP but no later than May 7. The ad halt will last until at least June 5, after which the situation will be reassessed. Advertising slots already paid for will be “replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities or removed from broadcast where contracts permit.”
The announcement came just days after Gamesys announced it was limiting its TV and radio advertising “until current social restrictions are eased.” It also followed the UK government’s latest warning to operators regarding the need to “safeguard online gamblers” during the lockdown.
The BGC said its members were taking this step “despite a drop in advertising spend and the volume of TV sport and casino advertisements dropping by up to 10%.” The BGC further noted that its members had suffered a 30% fall in their online gambling revenue and up to 60% declines in overall revenue thanks to the mid-March shutdown of retail betting and gaming venues.
BGC CEO Michael Dugher used the announcement to throw some shade at National Lottery operator Camelot, saying he hoped they would “follow our lead.” Dugher also pooh-poohed “alarmist noises from anti-gambling prohibitionists who just want to grab headlines” by claiming that gaming operators were exploiting the pandemic for commercial gain.
OVERALL GAMBLING DECLINE DURING LOCKDOWN
The latest example of those sounding the alarm came via a survey by a group calling itself Clean Up Gambling that showed the vast majority of respondents had reduced their gambling activity during the pandemic, although one-quarter of ‘regular gamblers’ – defined as those who bet once a week – said their activity levels hadn’t changed.
Around 28% of regular gamblers said they’d increased their activity and 11% said their activity had increased ‘a lot more.’ Just over two-fifths of regular bettors said they’d opened a new online account since the pandemic began, although the overall figure was only around 26%.
Nearly 45% of respondents said the government should make it harder to gamble, while 18.4% said the government should make it easier and 29.3% said things should remain as they are. And nearly two-thirds of online gamblers said they were “not concerned at all” about online betting despite the steady drumbeat of negative media coverage.